Making Student Experiences Valuable
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
An increasing number of dietetic students and interns are interested in retail work and are looking for meaningful learning experiences to explore employment options and gain an understanding of the retail environment. Managed correctly, you can engage students in activities that help them align with their career aspirations while obtaining some fresh insights for your company. The following considerations can help ensure each placement is purposeful, challenging and relevant to the individual who may be working with you.
- Connect with your human resources and legal departments to ensure any confidentiality agreements, insurance documents or other forms need to be completed internally or with the student’s school or university. Keep records as directed.
- Designate a supervisory person with whom the student should communicate regarding daily assignments and any changes in schedules.
- Provide a structured program with a plan for the duration of the placement and include tangible learning outcomes for the student and retailer. Determine what key pieces of information they should learn and leave with.
- Be very clear regarding responsibilities and expectations for the student during their time with you. This encompasses core accountabilities as well as work schedules/breaks, office space and use of technology.
- Start with an overall introduction to the retail world. This is foreign ground to many dietetic students and an overview of the industry will lay the ground work for why you perform the work you do.
- Ask about the student’s beliefs around food, nutrition and dietary patterns. This will give you the opportunity to review the role of the retail dietitian and how they must follow professional ethics guidelines and refrain from promoting their own personal food biases.
- Engage students in projects and experiences that will advance the skills required to succeed in retail dietetics. For example, writing assignments, consumer interaction, on camera social media skills, culinary demos and group leadership abilities.
- Provide immediate feedback on student work and offer examples of excellence for them to review. Talk about “why” you do things a certain way to be effective.
- Offer opportunities to interact with other departments so they see how the entire retail operation functions and how their role can contribute to financial success and customer loyalty.
- Before they leave, be sure to identify areas for further education and growth, (i.e.: consumer writing, public speaking, being a self-starter, etc.).
- Provide key educational resources. Share other retailer websites, podcasts, blogposts, or videos and have students become members of RDBA and the Food and Culinary Professionals DPG/Supermarket Subgroup to advance learning beyond the time they have with you.